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You and Me.
You've been my best friend since kindergarten, since you walked up to me in the playground on our second day of school and said, "I don't like your dress. It looks dumb."
I think you expected me to cry. I looked up at you from the castle I was building in the sandpit, and I saw your dark hair falling over your faded-blackboard colored eyes and the smudge of dirt on your cheek and your fingernails that had once been painted bright blue and I thought you looked like everything I wanted to be.
I told you I didn't like it either, but my Daddy made me wear it. He always made me wear frilly dresses, and I hated them. My closet was full of pink and pastels, frills and ruffles, and I hated it all. I understand, now, that Dad was scared I wouldn't grow up feminine enough, since my Mom ran off and left him the task of raising a little girl.
You had a spare set of clothes in your backpack because your Mom was worried you'd pee your pants or something, so you let me wear them. I still have them, folded away in my bottom draw. Red jeans and a yellow tee-shirt with a picture of a ladybug on it. You pulled them out of your bag, and said, "Here. Wear these." You even held the door shut in the girls' bathroom while I changed because the lock was broken.
The jeans were just a little bit short, because I've always been taller than you, and they clashed horribly with my bright pink sandals, but I'd never felt more comfortable.
After a week of me coming home in your clothes every afternoon, my Dad stopped trying to make me wear dresses to school.
From then on, you were my best friend. For twelve years we've shared clothes and everything else that matters.
But now—today—I hate you. So much. I hate you every bit as much as I once loved you.
Because you knew.
You knew I wanted him. You knew that I've been crushing on him since the sixth grade.
In seventh grade, we'd spent hours lying on my bed, our feet on the wall as our nail polish dried, sighing about him and his friends and how cute they were, wishing they'd pay us attention.
"I'm gonna tell your Dad you like a bo-oy," you'd say, giggling and snorting. "Oh! No, I'm gonna tell Emmett—he's in the same class as him for Math."
I let you tease me because I knew you'd keep my secret. I'd trusted you with all my secrets—like when I wanted to run away and find my Mom, or when Lauren told me my teeth were gross and I cried, or when I stole some of your dad's cigarettes and we smoked them in my backyard when my dad was working late one day.
And you kept it, stored away with every other secret we'd collected together over the years. You told no one.
Just a week ago, you were teasing me about him, whispering into my ear at lunch. "He's a senior now, Izzy," you said. "You gotta do something this year, or you'll regret it. You've gotta make your move or he'll go to college and you'll always wonder 'what if?' "
You teased me in English when you saw his name on the inside cover of my folder, encircled by love hearts and kisses. You threatened to tell Angela, because she'd started dating Ben, and he was friends with him. You wouldn't really—and you didn't.
On Wednesday, you told me we should go to Jess' party on Saturday night. "Emmett's going," you said. "And last night, I heard him and Edward talking about getting some weed, so that means you know who will be there, too."
You helped me out with my dad, inviting me over for a sleepover so we didn't have to lie to him. Well, only a little.
You helped me get ready, too. You made my eyes all pretty with smoky shadows and long black lashes, and you curled my hair just right. You lent me the red denim miniskirt that you knew I'd been coveting, and you cooed encouragements at me.
"You look so hot, Izzy. He's totally going to notice you tonight."
You didn't see my smile as I zipped up your dress.
We spotted him and his friends as soon as we got to Jessica's. They were kicking back in the living room, passing a joint around, their caps backwards, their eyelids droopy.
Edward gave us a lazy wave and you blushed. I elbowed your ribs and giggled.
You hadn't told me yet, but I knew you liked him. I'd seen the way you watched him in the cafeteria, the way your hips swung just a little more whenever we passed him, the way your cheeks flushed like rose petals whenever he came to say hi at lunch. The way your eyes always flicked in his direction as he joked around with us, straddling a backwards chair in that hot teenaged-boy way.
Mike and Eric were mixing drinks in the kitchen. It was my turn to drive, so I grabbed a bottle of water, encouraging you to have whatever they were pouring. "Go for it, Allie," I said.
Six vodka and cokes, a few hits of a joint, and twelve years of friendship meant nothing to you.
At first, I smiled when I saw you, your lips busy, standing on your tiptoes with your hands in his hair. But then I head Edward shouting and laughing with someone in the kitchen, and it was like the whole room had been flung upside down. My back found the wall as my legs forgot how to hold me up.
I couldn't make sense of what I was seeing. Why were your fingers tangled, not in Edward's dark mess of hair, but in sandy blond curls?
In the middle of the living room, he pushed you up against the wall, grinding into you for everyone to see. I watched as you kissed each other hard—drunken, messy kisses punctuated with your curses and his moans.
Right there for everyone to see—for me to see.
Everyone saw when his hand slid up your leg, everyone could tell when his fingers slipped inside your panties. Everyone saw you come, head thrown back, his name on your drunken, slurry lips. Everyone saw you giggling when you stopped and asked me for a condom, when you stumbled your way upstairs, when you took him into Jessica's little sister's bedroom and closed the door.
On Monday morning, everyone else has forgotten.
Everyone else's memories had been wiped clean by the alcohol they chugged, then spent Sunday vomiting back up. Everyone else had forgotten as they nursed their pounding heads and hid their bloodshot eyes from the bright sun that peeked out unexpectedly, like it had turned out only to shine on their shame.
You seem to have forgotten, too.
I haven't, though.
I haven't forgotten how it felt to watch those lips on yours. Those lips I've wanted to kiss since I knew what kissing was. I haven't forgotten how it felt to watch those fingers crawl up your legs, grab at your breasts. The same fingers I've wanted to feel linked through my own since I saw Jessica and Mike holding hands in eighth grade.
I haven't forgotten how my stomach fell right to my feet as your head fell back and your eyes fluttered shut and you came, right there, in a room full of people, with his fingers in your panties.
I haven't forgotten how you stumbled right over to my fallen heart and stomped on it in your stupid black stilettos, when you spotted me leaning against the wall, my fingers splayed against the plasterboard to keep me upright, and dragged him towards me.
I haven't forgotten the fist that squeezed the air from my lungs as I tried to smile when you giggled and slurred and demanded I give you the condom you knew was in the back pocket of my skirt.
"It's not like you'll be needing it, Izzy," you said, your eyelids still droopy with drink and orgasm.
I haven't forgotten the tears that slid down my face like acid on my skin as I watched you lead him up the stairs, knowing you were going to give him your virginity, the way I'd been wanting to since I first understood the appeal of sex.
I haven't forgotten running out the door into the frigid night, needing to get outside before the sobs strangled me. I haven't forgotten the taste of bile in throat, the burn of it in my nostrils as the water I'd been drinking so responsibly choked me and I heaved and shook over Jessica's mom's rose bushes.
I haven't forgotten that I hate you.
We're leaning against the hood of my car before first period on Monday morning. It's grey and threatening rain. I pull my hood up against the biting wind that's trying to slice its way between our layers of clothing.
"Aw, shit. I was sooo drunk," you tell me, like I don't know. Like I didn't have to watch you lose all your inhibitions and your sense of loyalty. Like I didn't have to watch the vodka wash away your propriety and our friendship.
"I know," I tell you. I throw in a fake giggle.
You should know it's fake, but you're too busy pretending to be embarrassed by your drunkenness. You're shaking your head, but I can see the smirk twisting your lips. "I don't even remember what I did. Did I do anything embarrassing?"
I shrug, casual, like I'm not about to detonate a grenade in your lap. "You hooked up with Jasper."
I enjoy watching your jaw drop, watching your heart try to thump its way out of your mouth. I can see it in your throat, the blue veins pulsing.
Your smirk is gone, your eyes are wide. "By hooked up …"
Does it really matter how you hooked up? Like there's a level of it that would make it okay. Would it be okay if you'd kissed him, as long as there was no tongue? Or if you'd only gone down on him—would that have been less of a knife to my back?
I smile, and wink, stick my elbow in your side. "Well, you made me give you a condom. So, I assume you fucked him."
I like the way my teeth scrape along my bottom lip as I say it. Fucked. You fucked him.
You fucked everything.
"Izzy. I … I … Are you sure?" You're close to tears.
I don't give a shit. I want you to hurt.
"He fingered you in the living room, against the wall. Then you took him upstairs to Jess' sister's bedroom. So, yeah, I'm pretty sure."
You're shaking your head, those big, pretty grey-green eyes filling with saltwater.
"Iz …I don't … I didn't mean … I don't remember."
My shoulders lift up and drop down, like I'm shaking your cares off. Don't put them on me, my shoulder say.
Your face is white, and your fingers are curled in balls. I imagine your fingernails splitting the skin of your palms, while I watch your bottom lip tremble and shake.
"I … I had sex … when I was drunk." Your hands start pulling at your hair, messing it up, mocking all that time you spent straightening it before school.
Your head is shaking, and I think your hands are, too. "I—" you're whispering now, "—I'm not … not a virgin anymore."
I shrug again, bouncing your hurt straight off me.
If it had been with anyone else, my arms would be around you. I'd be holding you while you cried, stroking your hair and whispering quiet comfort.
Part of me wants to. Twelve years can't be wiped away in one day, and it's instinct for me to hurt when you do.
But then I see him heading our way, and hurting for you just makes me hate you more.
He gives us a smile, straight white teeth flashing between pink lips. "Hey, girls."
Looks like he's forgotten, too.
"Hey, Isabella, Alice." Edward grins as he swaggers past, throwing his arm across Jasper's shoulder. He tosses a wink in our direction, and even with your sheet-white pallor, I see the pink sweep down your cheekbones.
The breath is slammed out of me, and like a migraine coming on fast, my head pounds and aches from the force of the idea that's just supernovaed in my brain.
I look back at you, and all I can see is you up against that wall with his mouth on yours, his hips grinding between your legs.
They say one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do is watch the one you love love someone else. Thanks to you, I know exactly why they say that.
Thanks to me, you're about to find out, too.
Your voice—soft and even more familiar to me than my father's—draws me out of my mind.
"Izzy? Why didn't you stop me?" You sniffle, then wipe your nose with your sleeve. "I mean … why didn't y –"
You trail off when my eyes find yours.
It's in that moment, when you see the flash of pain and anger in my eyes, the way my teeth are clenched so tight together, that I think you realize that you didn't just fuck Jasper. You've fucked me—you've fucked us, too.
My eyebrow lifts as you start again. "Alice?"
You flinch away from the ice in my voice, your lip between your teeth, your eyes dark with regret and the tears you're still trying not to give in to.
You mean it. I can hear the pain and honesty in your voice.
I give you honesty in return. "I know."
"Are we … are we going to be okay? Izzy? I mean, I was really drunk and …"
I bite down on my tongue so I don't laugh in your face.
"Yeah, Alice," I say, and the bitterness in my voice is so thick I can taste it. "We're going to be just fine."
In Chemistry, I drop my books on Mike's table.
"Go be Lauren's partner," I tell him.
Mike's eyes are wide, but he doesn't argue. He collects his crap and takes my usual seat.
Edward looks surprised as I hoist myself onto the stool beside him, but he winks at me.
"Hey." His smile is easy. "This is a pleasant surprise."
I tuck my hair behind my ears, smiling up at him. "Oh, really?"
He grins, puts his lips beside my ear. "Yeah, you're much prettier than Mike."
This is going to be too easy.
Laughing, I shake my head at him. "Newton's not your type?"
"Is Newton anyone's type?" He asks, his voice low.
I snicker. "Well, he doesn't do it for me."
His breath is warm by my ear. It smells of truancy and cigarettes. "You're not into blonds?"
Cold trickles down my spine, and it takes everything in me to keep my smile wide. "I used to be."
"And now?" The spark in his blue-green eyes tells me I'm playing with fire.
Inhaling through my nose, I upend a can of gasoline on it. I turn my head so that my mouth is close to his ear, so he can feel my breath against his skin. "Edward? Am I really not being obvious enough?"
He pulls back, a smirk curling his lips. His hand finds my jean-clad thigh and I fight the urge to stiffen and move away. His fingers are long, grasping, so unlike Jasper's thick, callused ones, the ones I've fantasized about having on my skin. His grip reaches the entire way across my leg, and his fingertips flex ever so slightly, pushing into the softness of my inner thigh.
I take a deep breath, trying to relax into his touch. From the corner of my eye, I see his cheek drop as the smirk fades. He frowns, a dark, brooding look crossing over his features.
When the bell rings for the end of the period, Edward's voice is in my ear again. "You're so full of shit, Isabella. But I'll play."
Before I remember how to speak, his hand is on my elbow and he's tugging me from the lab. I let him lead me outside, pulling my hood up against the fine rain that's misting across the quad.
He relinquishes his grip on me once we're behind the gym. He lights two cigarettes and hands me one, raising an eyebrow in challenge when I hesitate. I take it, and as I pull the acrid smoke into my lungs, a sharp thrill of adrenaline shoots through me.
I watch Edward for a moment, his face upturned as he breathes out blue-grey smoke, then turn my head away, my back pressed against the cold brick wall.
"You gonna to tell me what this is about?"
I don't look at him, bringing the cigarette to my lips. I exhale, flicking the ash that's gathering at the glowing tip. "What do you mean?"
He shakes his head. "On Friday afternoon, you're looking at Jazz like he's the hottest fucking guy you've ever seen—like he's the only guy you see." His laugh is bitter. "An hour ago, you suddenly decide you're into me. What gives?"
He steps toward me, towers over me as my spine presses into the bricks. He lowers his head, and I think he's going to kiss me.
"Is this about Brandon hooking up with Jasper?"
"Fucking Jasper." I correct him before I realize what he's said.
He knows—he hasn't forgotten.
He chuckles and the sound rolls through the bottom of my stomach. He steps away from me, leans against the wall beside me, his face upturned to the rain again.
"They didn't fuck."
My head turns towards him so fast that I graze my cheek on the rough brick. "What did you say?"
He shakes his head. There's something I can't identify in his eyes as he grimaces. "I saw you bolt outside, saw them heading up the stairs. Brandon was completely wasted, and I knew Jazz'd feel like shit if he fucked her while she was that messed up." He sighs, raking his fingers through his hair. "I was gonna stop them, but by the time I got up there they were both fucking passed out, anyway."
His lips wrap around the cigarette, while shock, anger and … relief cascade through me. My hands are shaking as I take another drag, holding the smoke in my lungs until they start to burn. I exhale and shake my head.
The cigarette between my lips, I dig my phone out of my pocket. As much as I hate you right now, you need to know the truth. You didn't toss away your virginity in a drunken mess.
I send you a quick text. It's probably the first I've ever sent you that isn't punctuated with smiley faces and love hearts. It's not a peace offering.
Edward says you passed out before you could fuck Jasper.
I say the words over in my mind as they're delivered to you via radio waves, and the tightness in my chest dissolves with the acidic anger that bubbles through me.
The words—the truth—free me to hate you. They let me relinquish the worry I haven't been able to shake. It's easier now. The tiny voice in my head questioning your ability to have given informed consent is silenced. You didn't fuck him.
But you would have.
I flick the cigarette onto the ground, my toe grinding it into the concrete, the same way you did my heart.
I stuff my hands in my pockets, and copy Edward's pose, looking skyward. The rain mists across my face, and I shut my eyes to try and keep the burning tears from spilling over.
The pressure is building inside, and it erupts suddenly, exploding out of me. I spin on my heel and slam my fist into the brick wall. Pain shoots up my arm, and before I can repeat the action, Edward's arm is around my waist and he's holding me tight while I scream and curse.
I call you everything I can think of, screaming to the wind and rain how much I fucking hate you, while Edward holds me against his body. The warmth of him is pressed against my back as my arms and fists try to make contact with the unforgiving brick. I want—need—that pain. I need to turn the hurt that's flowing like poison through my veins into something real, something physical. Bruises and scrapes and broken knuckles are preferable to the feel of acid-hate corroding me from the inside out.
Edward is stronger than me, and more stubborn, too. He holds me tighter as I fight harder against his restraint. I can feel him talking to me, feel the vibrations of his speech rolling through his chest and into mine, but I can't hear him over the shrieks and half-words of rage that are clawing their way out of my throat.
I'm hysterical, hot tears are streaking down my face, and I can't get enough air into my lungs.
Edward spins me round, one hand behind my head as he pins me to the brick wall with his body. His other hand is on my cheek, his smoky breath washes over me as I continue to gasp and shake.
"Isabella! Fucking breathe, all right?" His sea-green eyes flash with panic. "Breathe!"
"I'm … I'm … I'm …" I can't get the words out. I'm trying.
His eyes close with pain as he holds me against the wall. "Calm down. Please. I don't want to slap you, Izzy. Come on. Breathe."
He drops his forehead to mine, and I can feel his breath on my lips. I focus on it. My eyes close tight, and each time I feel the warm air from his lungs on my face, I gasp it in, like I'm trying to pull his ability to breathe inside of me.
And then it's quiet.
Just him breathing, and me grasping at his breath.
He groans in relief.
He makes to step back but I grab his sweater, holding him tight against me.
"Shhh," he whispers. "It's okay. You're okay."
It's not, and I'm not, but I let him comfort me.
He maneuvers us carefully, pulling me down into his lap as he sits, his back against the wall.
"I'm sorry." I say the words against his chest, ashamed to meet his eyes.
"Don't worry 'bout it." He pats my shoulder. His voice is tight. "You really liked him, huh?"
I don't say anything. I don't think he expects me to.
We sit in silence for a few minutes, his hand occasionally rubbing up and down my spine.
My eyelids are getting heavy when he suddenly speaks, surprising me. "Can I ask you something?"
"I mean, I get that Alice hurt you. Like, you liked him a lot, and she was going to screw him 'cause I wouldn't kiss her. But, I mean … do you even know him?"
I pull back, easing myself out of his lap. I sit beside him, back to the brick wall and he lights two more cigarettes. The bell rings again, but neither of us make any effort to move.
The rain has stopped. I pull my hood off, and tuck the humidity-induced curls behind my ears.
Edward's question makes me uncomfortable. I want to tell him to fuck off, but he's already set the cogs of my mind in motion.
Do I even know him?
I know I like the color of his eyes, and the shape of his smile. I know I like the curve of his bicep and the way his jeans sit on his hips. I know I like it when he winks at me, and the way he and Edward laugh at their lunch table, heads thrown back, eyes squinting.
But I've never said more than half a sentence to him. I don't know what music he likes or what he wants to do when he finishes school. I don't know whether he likes spring or fall, or where he goes when he's pissed off.
I don't know a fucking thing about him.
"Not really," I admit, finally. "I don't know." I breathe in more smoke, then blow it into the breeze.
"I've been crushing on him since like, sixth grade." I shrug, scratching at my neck. "Since then, I dunno … It's just been like … I mean, to be honest, I can't even think of one real conversation I've had with him."
Edward laughs, but it's sharp and kind of bitter sounding. He shakes his head and brings the cigarette to his lips.
My heartbeat quickens suddenly. "Edward?"
My voice is tight, low. "Did you say you wouldn't kiss Alice?"
He heaves a sigh, his hand diving back into his hair. "Uh … yeah."
"You wanna explain that?"
"Not really," he mutters.
My phone chimes then. It's a text from you.
Yeah, I figured, but thanks for telling me. I left after second period and came home. I found the condom in the pocket of my dress, unopened. I'm sorry, Iz.
I don't reply.
"I think you need to tell me, Edward."
He tucks his knees up, his head between them. "Brandon found me and Jazz hanging in the kitchen. She was tipsy, but not too messy at that stage. She was all flirty and touchy and shit."
He shakes his head, still directing his mumbles to the ground. "She wanted to hook up, and I told her I wasn't interested."
I feel a little twinge but I stomp on it. I don't want to feel sorry for you.
"And …" I prompt.
He looks up at me, frowning. "And you know what happened. She drank a shitload of vodka, then hooked up with Jazz."
That doesn't sound like you. You wouldn't just decide to hook up with someone else—Jasper least of all—after being rejected. You've been crushing on Edward for months now, and you know—you knew—how I felt about Jasper.
I squint at Edward, who looks away.
There's something missing. A step of logic that's been skipped somewhere.
"You're not telling me everything."
He shakes his head. "It's not worth it, Izzy. Trust me, you don't want to know."
I'm too exhausted from screaming to raise my voice. "Fucking tell me."
He's quiet for a long time. Until he's finished his cigarette and stabbed it viciously into the concrete. When he looks at me, his eyes are weary, defeated.
"I told Alice I wouldn't hook up with her 'cause I had feelings for someone else."
So … what? You were hurt, and you wanted to make me hurt, too? You wanted me to know how you felt, knowing the guy you liked wanted someone else.
The hardest thing you'll ever have to do is watch the one you love love someone else.
I shake my head.
But why? Why did you have to make me feel it, too? Why did you need me to hurt?
Have I not been there for you when you needed me? Have I not cared deeply enough for you? Have I not stood by your side every single day for twelve fucking years?
What did I do wrong?
And then I understand, like the final puzzle piece has slotted into place, and I can see the whole picture.
I look at Edward out of the corner of my eye. His eyes are on the ground, his shoulders slumped as his hand claws it's way through his hair. His long fingers fist it, twisting it into its usual mess.
I think about those fingers sprawled across my thigh under our Chemistry bench, curling around his cigarette, rubbing warmth into my spine.
I stretch out my knuckles, feeling the sting as the scrapes on my skin stretch and contract.
Edward frowns, and reaches for my hand. He makes me curl it up into a fist, then stretch it out again.
His voice is quiet. "I don't think you'd be able to move it that easy if you'd broken anything. Probably just bruised. Ice might be a good idea, though."
He heaves himself to his feet. "Wait here, okay?"
I nod, mute.
I close my eyes, and the whole weekend replays in Technicolor behind my eyelids.
Edward turned you down. Because he likes me.
And you—you decided in a fit of jealousy that the last twelve years meant nothing?
You just had to make me feel the rejection and hurt you did.
When Edward reappears, a baggie full of ice in his hands, I can't help but smile. "Thanks."
He shrugs, his fingers in his hair again. "No problem."
He sits down beside me, his legs crossed awkwardly. He takes my injured hand, pulls my cuff up to cover it, and sets the ice against it. "You gonna be okay?"
I shrug. "I guess."
"I'm sure you and Brandon'll sort stuff out," he says, the roughness of his voice contrasts his gentle words.
"I don't think I want to," I tell him. "Sort things out, I mean. It's not because of Jasper." I hurry the words out as he opens his mouth to interrupt me, his brow creased. "It's Alice. I mean, she … what? You turned her down and she decided to hurt me? She decided our friendship meant less than her pride, so fuck it. I'm done."
I don't know Edward. Not really.
I don't know what he wants to do when he leaves school, or how well he gets on with Rosie, his little sister. I don't know what his parents do, or what kind of music he listens to when he's pissed off. I don't know if he reads, or if he spends his afternoons playing video games, or if he has a part time job.
But I do know what his breath tastes like, and how his voice sounds when he's close to panicking. I know he doesn't let his friends make stupid, drunken mistakes, and I know he won't hook up for the hell of it.
I know he's cutting class to sit with a slightly unhinged, hysterical girl who probably has streaks of mascara staining her face, and that I'd probably be needing to visit the ER if he hadn't stopped me from slamming my fist into the wall a second time.
I don't know him, not well. But in the last hour, he's made me want to.
I nod, mostly to myself. We're done, you and me.
You threw us away, jealous and hurt, and you know what? I'm fucking glad. If it was that easy for you to throw the last twelve years in my face—I don't want twelve more years as your friend. I don't want twelve more minutes as your friend.
I pull my phone out again, and I type you one last text.
I turn to Edward. He's still holding the ice to my knuckles, but his eyes are seeing things a million miles away.
"You wanna get out of here?"
He blinks at me, before a small smile curves his lips. "Sure."
A/N: This is just a bit of randomness I wrote for the Season of Our Discontent Anonymous Angst Contest. I may make it a two-shot, eventually, but we'll see.
Thanks to BelieveItOrNot, who spends such a lot of time helping me improve my writing. She's the best.